After our AI identified nine frisson patterns, we wondered (and several beta users have asked us) when and how artists combine these patterns to produce chills-inducing moments. Does frisson come from one pattern or a combination? If a combination, are more than two patterns required? Do certain patterns work together better than others? Do certain genres use certain patterns more or less often? So many great research questions to pursue!

We are still gathering the data to conduct a statistical analysis of all of the above, but here is an anecdote that stimulated our intuition. One popular submission to our dataset is Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz’s “The Bells of Notre Dame” from the famous Disney movie. If you haven’t heard of Menken or Schwartz, they are incredible artists responsible for the myriad smash hits of the “Disney Renaissance” (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, The Prince of Egypt, Hercules), world-famous musicals like Wicked, and, lucky for all of us, they are still going!!

Qbrio flagged 6:08 in the video below as an especially potent frisson moment. This climax combines a Resolution pattern (non-linear tempo slow-down, cadence into the tonic, prolonged hold right on climax), a Surround pattern (entrance of the high-tonal volume ensemble on the climax), and a Harmonicity pattern (perfect octave alignment right on the climax). Take a listen and see what you think, the moment certainly still works for me after having seen this movie as a kid 20 years ago.

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In our experience, the strongest, most acute frisson moments flagged by Qbrio almost always elicit call-outs from Youtube commenters. The commenters were especially explicit and emphatic on this one:

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I thought there was an uncanny similarity between this passage and another popular submission to our dataset: Carrie Manlakos’ cover of Radiohead’s “Creep”.

The most popular moment is the climax at 2:52 in the video below when the tension finally resolves. When I first saw this link I thought “here we go again another Radiohead cover.” But Carrie won me over, and into 2:52 I definitely got chills (props in particular to that back-up singer). Have a listen and see if it works for you.

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Now note the frisson patterns in play. A long Resolution pattern into 2:52 with the chord progression, tempo slow-down, and hold on the climax. An effective Surround pattern with the entrance of the band (and high-tonal volume percussion) right at 2:52, and a wonderful high-register Harmonicity moment between Manolakos and the back-up singer. Sound familiar? Like with the Bells of Notre Dame clip, Youtube commenters strongly responded to this combination of three frisson patterns:

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I think there is something going on here and its unlikely this is a one-off coincidence. My hypothesis is that there are a certain combinations of frisson patterns, like Resolution-Surround-Harmonicity, that “work” for broad audiences and are being continuously re-discovered by composers across genres and eras. If this is the case, wouldn’t it be fascinating to know what all of those combinations are and to help artists use them to create wonderful music that moves us?

That’s what we are working on at Qbrio.

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